Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Mexico Adventure(Part Four)

On Monday, the first day of our build, I woke up earlier than normal. There was an enforced quiet time until 7am each morning. Although we were allowed out of our dorms before then, there was an expectation of silence. I quietly tried to get my clothes together, wincing at each little sound, certain I would wake up the rest of my dorm. This experience scarred me so much that each evening following I laid out everything I would need for much easier, quicker and quieter access.  After getting dressed, I slipped out quietly and crossed the road to the main courtyard.   There I sat on at blue mosaic benches, joining other leaders in some quiet time with God.  Soon after 7am, the first coffee of the day was ready.  After grabbing my cup, I continued journalling and reading through my book until the courtyard became too noisy.  Then I headed back across the road to wake up my crew.

 One thing you may not know about me is that I am not a morning person. I do not wake up talking(unlike my middle child), but making inarticulate sounds.  It takes me quite awhile to be able to think or speak coherently each morning.  (This has a lot to do with why my husband cooks breakfast for our family. There may have been a slight concern that I might start a fire if I cooked soon after awakening.)  However once I've been awake for a bit, I soon regain my typical enthusiasm.  Thus each morning after spending some time slowly waking up in silence, I woke the rest of the girls up with a disgusting amount of energy and cheer. I'm surprised no one threw anything at me.

 Monday morning brought with it a certain amount of trepidation.  Not only was this our first day building, but it was also our first shift in dish pit.  We rushed through breakfast, separating into groups, some washing dishes, others collecting what we would need for the day.  As I went to remind the cooler ladies of their tasks, it became obvious that one of our girls would not be joining us.  We had a sickie! While another leader tucked her into bed, I joined Dancer in collecting our cooler and water jug, both essential necessities for our day.  As the KP crew finished up, we slathered on sun screen, took a final bathroom run, filled our water bottles and headed out. Not surprisingly, we were the last team to leave.

 Following Ricardo, our build supervisor, through the bumpy dirt roads, we drove through the town and out into the countryside.  It was an experience.  From the tiny little shops selling all manner of interesting things, to the cars piled high with random objects, to the Spanish everywhere, we were surrounded by the new and unusual. I drank it all in, fascinated.  The mood in the van was significantly quieter than what it would be by the end of the week.  Most of us didn't know what we were in for so we waited to arrive at the job site with expectation and a wee bit of anxiety.  Would there be a bano?

 We turned off the main highway on to a steep bumpy dirt road.  I think I wondered if we would make it up that first hill each morning.  Slowly we followed the twisty road to what seemed like a bare forsaken spot that first day.  But as we disembarked from the van, we saw the concrete pad and pile of lumber under a tarp that marked our spot.  This was it, our job site.

 Joining with our family and their pastor, we began our morning with prayer, again setting a pattern for each day.  Then we began unloading the work truck and sorting the lumber.  Not being very strong, I was on the painting crew. We only had two sets of sawhorses, so after those were full we laid the rest of the panels on the ground.  In theory, this was a great idea. In practice it meant that at the end of the day I was so sore from squatting I could barely walk.  Thankfully I had a great painting crew working with me.  Some of our group switched out to try different tasks.  As painting was going to cause the least amount of damage to my hands, I stayed where I was.  One young man, Guapo, ended up sticking with me on painting crew, becoming my buddy for the week.

 The evening before, we had renamed my friend.  Pre-Mexico, he was a very quiet young man.  Even though he taught my son Sunday school for over a year, I hadn't gotten much out of him.  Even while preparing for our trip, he kept quiet.  One of the girls was determined to change that.  On Sunday evening, several of the girls were trying out pick-up line from the Spanish phrase book.  They called me over to practice on. I began correcting prononciation and soon started giving a brief lesson.  One girl wanted to know how to say handsome.  We looked it up, but the book listed "bonito" which is the masculine version of pretty.  Suddenly my high school Spanish kicked in and I exclaimed "Guapo! That's how you say handsome in Spanish!" Silly me, I then taught them that you could call someone Guapo, as in "Hey Guapo, how are you?" I gestured at my shy friend sitting across from me and just like that he was renamed. Guapo is very fun to say and yell, so it stuck.  And that is  how Guapo was renamed.

 Painting itself is kinda fun, somewhat monotonous, but mostly enjoyable. Especially if you wear sunscreen and don't burn your arms. (Note to self: When painting in Mexico, put sunscreen on your arms!) Where was I? Right, so while the painting part is fun, cleaning the painting tools is both fun, frustrating and time consuming.  The fun part is getting to put the rollers and brushes on the spinny thing and spray everybody with water. The frustrating part is how bloody long it takes you to scrape the paint off of the roller handles and mesh trays.  That part sucks.  And then knowing that tomorrow you will have to do this all over again.  Unsurprisingly we tried to use less brushes and rollers each day we had to paint.

 It was in this frustrating part where Guapo began to shine. Everything I asked him to do, no matter how frustrating or tedious, he did it.  Without complaining, without grumbling, he just nodded and kept on working.  I was beyond impressed.  By the end of each day, my hands were starting to swell. I wanted to do the hard jobs, but couldn't.  And every time I stopped being able to do the hard jobs, Guapo took over.

 The first day of our build was pretty amazing.  We started the morning with a concrete slab and a pile of lumber.  The day ended with the house framed, siding on and the beginnings of the roof framed. It was impressive progress.  The next day would bring even more.

 Following our ride back to the camp, I was so sore that I was walking like an old woman.  A shower helped, as did some advil and aloe vera.  My knee was swollen, my leg muscles ached and I had badly burned both of my arms.  However, even through the pain, I was really happy.  We had begun to build a house, bringing a dream to life for Lira, our mom.  She shared at the end of the day that she believed in miracles having seen one come to life before her eyes. I think we were all touched by that.

 Evening chapel began by showing a fun video of the day's work.  Our team accomplished less than the others as we began late, but it was fun to see everyone's work.  The day's end video became a highlight for all of us, even if our team didn't get featured as much. We weren't quite as goofy as some of the other teams.  Soon we segued into more weighty matters and at the end of chapel we were each challenged to spent 12 hours without our shoes.  If we chose to accept this challenge, we were to leave our shoes at the front of the room.  I hate going barefoot, but realized that I am privileged in ways I am not fully aware of.  Taking a deep breath, I slipped out of my chair and left my shoes at the altar.

 I was prepared to hate this experience.  Dust/sand on my feet is one of my pet peeves.  It drives me crazy.  Having to walk across the dirt road, take a shower and then walk with wet feet back to the dorm stressed me out.  But strangely it didn't stress me out quite as much as expected. In fact, my end reaction was rather surprising.  But my bare foot experience made me much more conscious of other people's realities.

 Soon it was quiet time.  Still not being quite adjusted to the time change, we were ready to go to bed.  The Child Whisperer led us in prayer and devotions again and then, long before lights out, we quieted down and went to bed.


  1. Grace, I am really enjoying reading your chronicles of your time in Mexico! Were you taking notes? 'Cause your descriptions are amazing! Can't wait to hear/read the rest of your adventures :)

  2. This sounds like a good experience. I've never been on a mission trip. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  3. I love your writing style, Gracie. Also enjoy hearing about the trip, etc.